Improving mental health amongst LGBT health care workers

Back to all Motions

2016 Health Care Service Group Conference
16 December 2015

Conference reaffirms the fact that discrimination is bad for your health – both physical and mental. Research published by Manchester Business School in 2014 found significantly higher levels of poor mental health amongst lesbian, gay and bisexual workers than non-LGB workers. The highest levels were amongst lesbian and bisexual workers. Research into transgender workers’ experiences has also found clear correlations.

Conference is concerned that this is being made ever worse by the impact of the Tory government austerity programme on health care services. The 2015 UNISON survey of health staff motivation, morale, recruitment and retention found our members were undervalued and overwhelmed, across a range of healthcare settings and occupations. Falling income, frequent staff shortages and increasing workload all lead to increased stress and lower morale. The survey also found worryingly high levels of abuse and bullying, including harassment of LGBT workers. LGBT workers’ ability to deal with discrimination and stress are further challenged by the disappearance due to cuts of many specialist services which previously supported LGBT mental health and well-being.

Added to this, the increasing privatisation of health care services risks the loss of established NHS best practice.

Conference believes it is vital that mental health is recognised as a workplace issue. Failure to do so damages the workforce and threatens patient outcomes. Conference welcomes initiatives such as the Blue Light programme which provides mental health support to ambulance workers. Conference further believes that the renegotiation of Agenda for Change provides an opportunity to revisit this issue.

Strategies to address workplace mental health and wellbeing and combat stress must acknowledge the impact of discrimination and meet the needs of the full diversity of the workforce, including LGB and trans workers. This will include the signposting of specialist LGBT support services.

Conference notes that of all the partners involved in renegotiating Agenda for Change, UNISON’s history of organising for LGBT equality stands out. We must live up to our proud history and negotiate for LGBT equality to be included in all policies, practices and agreements. Conference welcomes the range of UNISON LGBT equality bargaining resources available to support this.

Conference calls on the national health care service group executive, in liaison with the national LGBT committee, to seek to ensure:

1)That workforce mental health and wellbeing is on the bargaining agenda with all health care employers, citing the Blue Light Programme as an example of good practice;

2)That equality is centre stage in the renegotiation of Agenda for Change;

3)That UNISON keeps LGBT equality clearly on the agenda in this and all other negotiations, promoting our LGBT bargaining resources;

4)That the importance of specialist support is highlighted by NHS employers, alongside the importance of continuing funding for such services;

5)That best practice developed in the public sector is not lost when NHS services are privatised.